Orders of the Day — Overseas Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th June 1977.

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Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark 12:00 am, 13th June 1977

I have completed that passage. I wanted to get it on record in Hansard. I think that the House will agree that there can be no justified accusation of double standards against either the Government or the Labour Party.

Having put that clearly on record, I should like to indicate the problemsinvolved in making judgments on aid administration. It must always be a question of reaching a balance of judgment. Sometimes the issue is clear. It may become impossible to adminster aid. Such was the case in Uganda several years ago. Sometimes there may be a clear expression of public opinion. Such was the case in Chile.

In other cases we must try to answer certain questions. First, is the country concerned a persistent violator of human rights? Secondly, will what we do in our aid policy persuade it to give greater respect to human rights? Thirdly, how do we best co-ordinate with other aid donors?

Six weeks ago I had talks in Washington with the Carter Administration people—in particular about the President's appointment of someone to deal specifically with human rights. We found ourselves in a large measure of agreement. But how do we co-ordinate with other aid donors?

Fourthly, if we can carefully direct our aid to the poorest people in countries which persecute many of their citizens—this can be difficult—are we helping to create conditions which will promote political advance in the area of human rights or are we hindering them? It is not a simple matter. Of course, some choices are clear, but others are not.

Finally, I turn to the major theme of the Select Committee's Report: where lies our own self-interest? What is the relationship between the development of Third World countries and our own economic prospects? I shall take it wider than aid, as did the hon. Member for Essex, South-East. It would be wrong to limit our concern to aid. It is a question of the whole complex of policies which either do or do not promote the development of Third World countries. Therefore, what is the relationship between the development of Third World countries and our own economic prospects? What can we do which will more effectively co-ordinate the link between the two? The hon. Gentleman and I, and therefore the Select Committee and I, are in complete agreement that there is an important link here.

I worked out some figures a year ago—I was not then in the Ministry—which showed that if from 1980 to 1985 we were to assume a 5 per cent, rate of growth in developing countries—that was a rate of growth which they achieved in the 1960s before the oil crisis hit them—and were to take the present base line of doing only our present proportion of trade with the developing countries as being valid—I am basing myself on the 1974 statistics, which I think the Select Committee also did—according to my figures there would be a 65 per cent. increase in exports to the developing countries which would mean a 19·3 per cent, increase in United Kingdom total exports. That is quite a large figure.

If we were to assume that the whole complex of international policies towards the Third World were to be such as to promote a higher rate of growth, which was not held to be inconceivable in the 1960s because people talked about them achieving a 7 per cent, or 8 per cent. rate of growth, then an 8 per cent, rate of growth in Third World countries between 1980 and 1985, still holding the same proportion of British trade with them, would, according to my figures, mean a 31 per cent, increase in total United Kingdom exports.

That presents a number of challenges. First, how do we achieve that degree of economic growth in the Third World? Here we come back to the North-South dialogue and all the elements which are contained in this continuing debate between the developing and the industrialised countries. We come back to the maximising contribution that the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth can make. I believe that discussion within the Commonwealth on these issues can be and this week has been immensely valuable to resolving these issues.

We come back to a correct definition of self-interest. To the extent that Third World countries can grow and to the extent that there can be an increase in purchasing power among their people, there is a direct relationship with jobs and industry in this country. But it means that industry must be geared to producing more of the items that the Third World needs. It means that, one way or another, we must be more geared to selling our industrial products in the Third World.

At the same time, it means that this must be a reciprocal effort. As the Select Committee stated, we must look carefully at how we can help Third World countries to market the goods that they need to export to us which do not necessarily conflict with our own industry, production and employment. It becomes a complicated question.

I am certain that the Select Committee is right in saying that this requires more co-ordinated attention within White-hall. Although I cannot say much about this matter, I can indicate that there may now be the beginning of a greater degree of co-ordination, or at least a new look at the subject of trying to analyse what needs to be done and what could be done. I am certain that the Select Committee has performed an invaluable service in raising these issues.

I hope that I have not taken too long. There is a great temptation for Chairmen or acting Chairmen of Select Committees and Ministers on these occasions to speak for far too long. That is because the House allows us the opportunity to do so only once every 18 months. Therefore, I hope that the House will forgive us.

I hope that the effort which the Select Committee will put into its next report will be given even greater attention by the House, because I know that it is continuing this whole theme of in some way linking our own self-interest with the interests of the Third World. In my third incarnation at the Ministry, that is my own major theme. There is a tremendous vacuum to be filled by intelligent thinking, analysis and action, and I hope that together we can do it.